Do You Have 21st-Century Skills to Help Your Students Succeed? Do Your Students Have 21st-Century Skills to Think for Themselves? The Power of the Socratic Classroom has the answers you are looking for—answers that will supply the strategies to show students how to succeed into the future. A future that has unknown products, unidentified jobs, and unanticipated challenges. In Socratic Seminar, teachers shift to the role of facilitator, where they help their students develop the collaborative interpersonal skills, the critical and creative thinking skills, and the speaking and listening skills to face the upcoming challenges of the 21st century.
Charles Fischer has taught in public and private schools in a variety of settings, from rural Maine to inner city Atlanta. In the past 20 years, he has worked with a wide range of students from 4th grade to AP English and has been nominated for Teacher of the Year four times. He has his Master’s degree in Teaching & Learning from the University of Southern Maine, and received his B.A. in English Literature and Creative Writing from Binghamton University. His latest book, The Power of the Socratic Classroom, has won four awards, including the NIEA Best Education Book. His first novel, Beyond Infinity, won a 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award bronze medal (YA fiction). His areas of expertise are Socratic Seminar, Active Listening, Inquiry, Teaching & Learning, and Critical & Creative Thinking. He is currently working on a book of poetry, a short story collection, and several novels.
When I think back to graduate school and my teaching courses, no one ever taught us about the importance of active listening. As a high school English teacher candidate, the focus was always on reading and writing, with conversations about grammar, spelling and vocabulary. There were side conversations about public speaking, but no mention of teaching listening as a skill, or practicing active listening for ourselves.
Now more than 20 years into my career, I know the value of active listening. For me, it's one of the ways of connecting with students, building rapport with them, empathizing with them and everyone. And I mean powerful listening here, not just hearing or fake listening. I mean the deep and profound listening of one human being to another in a caring learning environment. Listening is a gift to others, a powerful gift. Just think about who you go to when you need to talk through something. Chances are they are one of the best listeners you know, someone you feel won’t judge you, for example.
Words are carrier waves for energy and ideas. It’s the difference, for example, between saying something sarcastically or saying it genuinely. How can we, as teachers, truly know what is going on with our students if we don’t listen to them in meaningful ways? So many young people are in pain right now, likely more than ever in history, and we have a responsibility to at least listen to them with empathy and compassion.
The Power of the Socratic Classroom
THE MAIN FIRST step in facilitating a Socratic Seminar is to begin the journey of moving away from didactic instruction toward facilitation and empowering students. As a teacher, this basically means less talking, and more listening and observing. Facilitating a seminar follows the principle of gradual release of responsibility, or helping students take on responsibilities so they can own more of the process.
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